Belfast Telegraph

Cathedral Quarter bomb: Business as usual as diners return to pay their bills

By CLAIRE GRAHAM

Amid Friday night's bomb terror the people of Belfast showed that the season of goodwill is alive and well.

Many big-hearted dinner guests who were forced to flee restaurants because of a city centre bomb returned to put cash in the till for meals left untouched.

The terror attack by the cobbles of Cathedral Quarter brought devastating economic losses on the busiest night of the year for the hospitality industry. Yet, many of those forced onto the streets on a cold December night during the security alert returned to the businesses later, settling their bills.

4th Wall, in the bustling St Anne's Square, was one of the many eateries evacuated, with candles blown out on the tables, wine poured into takeaway cups and the gas for the kitchen stoves switched off.

For assistant manager Suzanne Balmer it was business as usual yesterday, warmly welcoming hungry diners into the restaurant.

"We lost at least £5,000 in trade from having to cancel bookings and close our doors to the public, but people keep coming back to pay their outstanding bills.

"What's even a greater comfort is that people have been saying they will definitely make sure they come back in to finish what they started and for those who never got the chance are vowing to come as soon as they can.

"It's just such a shame in the run-up to Christmas to lose such big cash amounts but I have to say the will of people has softened the blow."

Remembering how steaks were left uneaten and glasses carried outside, Salt owner Donal Cooper said he had been inundated with calls from the public giving their support.

A Slazenger black sports bag containing the device exploded next to his restaurant.

"It's been incredibly humbling. It's just that moment and a police officer is standing there and you know you have to pull the plug on the busiest day of the year.

"I've worked in hospitality 20 years and I've never seen anything like it before.

"We have had our customers call in and check we were OK. The people of Belfast don't see us as a faceless chain or organisation.

"There is a connection there, we are a family-run business, as are other businesses in the square."

Mumbai 27 owner Ripon Biswas said he was in shock at the £3,000 loss he made but said his main concern was that his customers were safe and happy.

"Out of the 100 we had in for dinner, 94 of them left without paying. But how can I ask someone to pay for food they could not eat or enjoy because of a bomb?

"I wouldn't do it and I wouldn't want to do it," he said.

"I would never be angry at them for it – it was an experience, for some of them it would be traumatising. I know I've made the loss, but rather that than a loss of life."

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